Threads of Kinship

Chinese births, deaths and marriages in New South Wales to 1918

Threads of Kinship is a project to document early Chinese families in New South Wales.

Often thought of as a society of ‘bachelors’, the early NSW Chinese community actually included many families made up of men and women of Chinese, white / European, Aboriginal and mixed heritage. Threads of Kinship is using official records of birth, death and marriage to document their number and location, providing a comprehensive picture of early NSW Chinese families for the first time.

Ellen Ah Shing, b. Canterbury, NSW in 1889 (NSW BDM 6208/1889), photographed c. 1902–03. Ellen was the daughter of an immigrant Chinese father and a NSW-born mother of mixed Chinese-Irish descent. National Library of Australia

In many accounts of Chinese life in the Australian colonies, the predominantly male character of the Chinese population has been taken as evidence of an ‘absence’ of family life.

The work of many family historians and other researchers over the past three decades suggests, however, the significant extent to which Chinese men in Australia did form intimate relationships, marry, father children, and live as part of family units.

But there are still many unanswered questions.

Exactly how many Chinese families were there? How many marriages? How many families included migrant Chinese women? How many Chinese and part-Chinese children were born? Where did these families live? And how did their numbers change over time?

Threads of Kinship sets out to provide data that could answer these and other questions, by initially collating information from NSW birth, death and marriage indexes. The project is being run by Dr Kate Bagnall, a historian at the University of Tasmania.

How you can help

The Threads of Kinship project is taking place in stages, beginning with the compilation of an initial dataset of information extracted from published birth, death and marriage indexes (NSW Pioneers Index 1788–1918). In time this data will be published online.

A second stage will be to add further data collected from full birth, death and marriage registrations / certificates, including those found in immigration files in the National Archives of Australia and held by family historians and descendants.

In the first stage, the project needs help from you – genealogists, community historians and family members – to transcribe information from the indexes! You can transcribe as little or as much as you like – every bit helps.

All you need is a computer or other device with software that will open a PDF document and a spreadsheet (e.g. Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets). You do not need to connect to the internet to transcribe the data, but you will need to be able to email.

Transcription process – Stage 1

  1. Contact Kate Bagnall by email to register your interest in being part of the project:
  2. Kate will send you a PDF document with data from the NSW Pioneers Index microfiche, a spreadsheet (in Excel or Google Sheets, whichever you prefer) to use to transcribe the data, and clear instructions on what to do.
  3. You will transcribe the relevant data from the NSW Pioneers Index into the spreadsheet, and once complete, send the spreadsheet back to Kate.
  4. Kate will add your data to the main database, checking and verifying it, and she will add your name to the list of contributors on this website (or you can remain anonymous if you prefer).
  5. When all the relevant data from the NSW Pioneers Index is compiled, Kate will publish the initial dataset online (e.g. in Zenodo or similar open data repository).

In Stage 2 of the project we will seek copies and full transcriptions of birth, death and marriage certificates corresponding to the Chinese births, deaths and marriages identified in Stage 1, as well as information about Chinese ancestors we might have missed (e.g. because they had an English-sounding name like ‘John Peters’).

See ‘Sample documents’ below for examples of the NSW Pioneers Index data, the spreadsheet, and NSW BDM certificates.


The initial research that underpins Threads of Kinship was undertaken when I was doing my PhD at the University of Sydney. My PhD project looked at Chinese-European families in colonial New South Wales, and as part of my research I compiled a list of Chinese-European marriages in New South Wales to 1888.

My mother, Carlene Bagnall, took on the task of going through the microfiche version of the NSW Pioneers Index and either printing out or noting the details of individuals with ‘Chinese’ names. The NSW indexes do not include place of birth or race/ethnicity, so names are the only clue to ethnicity. ‘Chinese’ names she included were:

  • names that are obviously Chinese, e.g. Chew Loong, Chee Tan, Chong Quong
  • names including the prefix Ah or its variant spellings, e.g. Ah Lee, Ahthu, Ar Hang, Ateak
  • names which are most probably Chinese, e.g. Hing, Foohy, Jong
  • names in the index that include ‘Chinese’ or ‘Chinaman’.

There are, of course, other family names that are more difficult to categorise as ‘Chinese’ or ‘non-Chinese’. These names, such as Lee and King, could either be an English or a Chinese family name, and they were copied only where it was obvious that they were ‘Chinese’, most usually due to a ‘Chinese’ given name (e.g. Cong Lee; King Sing).

Carlene’s notes and printouts fill three lever arch folders, and it is these that are providing the data for Threads of Kinship. I began the process of creating the broader Threads of Kinship database (which does not focus solely on Chinese-European families) after completing my PhD, but I had to put it aside to focus on other parts of my research. The time seems right now, however, to pick things back up again!

Sample documents

Transcription documents
NSW marriage registration from NSW BDM (old style)
Marriage registration of Mary Morton and Ah Choon, Deniliquin, NSW (NSW BDM 1886/6205).
NSW birth registration from NSW BDM (new style)
Birth registration of William Chi, son of John and Margaret Chi, Avondale (near Wollongong), NSW (NSW BDM 1862/14994).
Original NSW birth certificate (late 19th century)
Birth certificate of Young Kye Tibbits, son of Chin Ah Song and Ah Lin, Tingha, NSW, 14 January 1892 (NAA: SP42/1, B1906/4822).


Threads of Kinship uses the term ‘Chinese family’ in its broadest sense – meaning families that included at least one person of Chinese or part-Chinese heritage, born in Australia or overseas. For example, this would include marriages between:

  • a Chinese woman and a Chinese man both born in China
  • an Australian-born woman of English heritage and a Chinese man born in China
  • a German woman and an Australian-born man of mixed Chinese-European heritage
  • an Australian-born woman of mixed Chinese-European heritage and an Australian-born man of British heritage

and births of children to:

  • an Irish-born mother and an Australian-born father of Chinese heritage
  • an Indigenous Australian mother and a Hong-Kong-born father of Chinese heritage
  • a Chinese mother and a Chinese father, both born in China.

For the purposes of the initial stage of the Threads of Kinship data collection using the NSW Pioneers Index:

  • a ‘Chinese birth’ is one where either parent has a Chinese-sounding name, or is known to be of Chinese or part-Chinese heritage
  • a ‘Chinese death’ is where the individual has a Chinese-sounding name, or is known to be of Chinese or part-Chinese heritage
  • a ‘Chinese marriage’ is one where husband or wife has a Chinese-sounding name, or is known to be of Chinese or part-Chinese heritage.

We realise that our sources in the first stage of the project – indexes of official registrations of birth, death and marriage – will be incomplete and not capture every individual who might be considered part of a ‘Chinese family’ in colonial NSW – for example, an ex-nuptial (‘illegitimate’) child of a Chinese father and white mother whose birth was registered under the mother’s (English) name only. We also recognise that by focusing on formally registered marriages, deaths and births we will be excluding individuals and families not documented in these records. We hope that the second stage of the project – where genealogists and descendants can contribute data from their own family’s records – will rectify this gap somewhat.


NSW births, deaths and marriages

Chinese families in colonial New South Wales

Work by Kate Bagnall:


If you are interested in helping transcribe data for the project, please email Kate Bagnall at



  1. Craig Hong says:

    Hey there Kate,

    Yap and Margaret are my great great granparents. Their son Charles fathered my grandfather Lancelot in who in turn fathered my Dad Geoff. My Dad might have stuff. I am going to Tamworth in November and will see what is around.

  2. To Helen Patrikios,

    It is possible your Rose O’Connor who married Charles Ah Mouk in Rockhampton, 1864 is the same Rose o”Connor who was stated to be a servant for my Emma Young Sing (nee Mann) and testified in court proceedings at Rockhampton in 1867 for events which occurred at Crocodile Creek Diggings, near Rockhampton on 07 January 1867, known as the Crocodile Creek Riots or Affray.

    Email me and I can send you the press reports on the court case which mentions Rose O’Connor.

    Claire Faulkner

  3. Hingor Chung says:

    Hi Kate
    Is the site still active? I am Tasmanian and my father was born in 1884- or thereabouts in China. His first wife, had a daughter and this daughter CHUNG SEN had 4 daughters in China before emigrating to Rabaul and had 6 sons.
    My father who had been adopted had a task as an adult to come to Australia and find his ‘adopted father’ who had come (and not returned from the gold rush in Victoria). This ‘adopted father’ had a de facto relationship (maybe marriage) with a ‘local’ and had had 10 children in Murray Bridge/ Adelaide. I have no idea what the children might have been called but one might have worked in Rabaul in banking.
    My father travelled with papers AH EUN, AH EUN CHUNG, AH EUN CHUNG -KOW, and later Harry Chung-Kow.
    He ended up in Hobart where he died in 1967.
    Would you be able to suggest how I start tracking down the South Australia connection?

  4. Julie McIntosh says:

    I am a descendant of Sim Bosen known as John Bousen from Amoy China who married Ellen Glass Gauntlett in Warwick Queensland in 1868 and had five children. I have a copy of their marriage certificate and birth certificates of three of the five children. I am trying to do further research on John but having lots of difficulty beacuse of the anglicising of his name. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Julie

  5. Alan Longstaff says:

    Hi Kate, I have noticed all the information on this webpage is around Sydney and NSW generally. What about Victoria, for I am trying to find information about my Aunt’s Marriage to William CHUNG in 1942, they may have a son – Denis William Chung born Nov 1942 Armadale Vic, Married?, Died 10 Mar 2012 in Adelaide Sth Aust, for I have been seeking any information about this Family line for the last 3 years on and off and kept running into dead-ends, so now I am waiting on the BDM of Victoria, to send me the Death & Marriage certificate for William & Rita Chung nee Longstaff. Thank you for your time to read this message, and hope you can give me some advise as to where I could find more information please. Cheers Alan

    • Kate says:

      Hi Alan, I’m afraid I can’t help you directly with information about William and Rita Chung. You’re right that my focus is NSW and mostly before 1930. If you haven’t already, you might get in contact with the local family history group in the area where they lived. Best of luck with your searching.

  6. Claire Faulkner says:

    Hi Kate,
    Just wondering whether you received some of my documents sent for

    Yung Sing and Emma Mann,
    Kong Sing and Ellen Ann Mann,
    Lowe Peng Ip and Mary Mann,
    Chun Hoo Ley Kum and Rosina Mary Mann.

    All four Mann daughters married wealthy Chinese merchants or storekeepers.

    There are now divergent theories that the girls’ father John Mann, confectioner at Parramatta who died 19/01/1855, was also of Chinese origin. Their mother Ellen Lyons died 01/01/1853, it is unknown who reared the four daughters after their father’s death, or how all four daughters married Chinese merchants.

    I have his marriage at Parramatta in 1842, same day as John Shying (Chinaman) and Bridget Gillorley which is probably just circumstantial.

    Let me know and I can re-send.

  7. gary porter says:

    I was extremely interested in the contact with Greg Johson of Canberra. I also am descended from John Mann, born in Amoy, China, shepherd and bushman, married Elizabeth Smith of Scotland. Their daughter Elizabeth was my great-grandmother. I have had email contact from one other descendant and have never been able to find any others.

    Gary Porter

  8. Jo-Anne says:

    Hi Kate,
    To all who may read this, I am so happy to find this site. Yap John Hong was my Great Great Grandfather. I have photos of Mary Ellen Hong his daughter.

    • Bronwyn O'Donnell says:

      Hi Jo-Anne

      I have photos of Roland Hong and my ancestry site and would love to swap with yours of Mary Ellen.


  9. Helen Patrikios says:

    Would you kindly provide information or direction regarding my great great grandparents. Married in ?1864 Rockampton Qld: Rose O’Connor to Charles Ah Mouk?

    I am interested to know about their meeting and subsequent marriage, esp. with the taboo surrounding mixed marriages. Thank you.

  10. Lorna Jacoby says:

    Hi Kate

    Through family research I have Thomas Ang Wong (Interpreter) which married into my Welton Family. Marriage by Fullerton 11 Sept 1854.

    Thomas Ang Wong lived in Sydney up till about 1866 when he moved to Bogantungan, Rockhampton. Whilst in Sydney had contact with John Juansing also a Interpreter and had a cousin A Kay which was killed at Braidwood 1861.

    His daughter Francis Madeline Ang Wong married in Bogantungan 22 April 1883. Witness on marriage certificate was Adeline Yung Sing.

    Thomas Ang Wong died Rockhampton 22 December 1905, occupation Jeweller aged 78years. I will send you my documents with pleasure.

    Lorna Jacoby

  11. Claire Faulkner says:

    I am descendant from Yung Sing (William Young Sing) of Canton and Emma Mann of Parramatta who were married by the Rev James Fullerton at Elizabeth St, Sydney. You have commented about this marriage in your blog, ‘Another Fullerton Marriage’ on 29 July 2010.

    I will send you my documents. The first two children were born at Sydney; the family relocated to Crocodile Ck Diggings near Rockhampton, Qld at the end of 1866. Four more children were born. Originally a merchant in the city of Sydney, they lived at Gloucester St, the Rocks. After relocating to Qld, Yung Sing became a licensed publican, with established hotels in the Copperfield, Clermont, Emerald, Bogantungan, Pine Hill and Jericho districts. He died 6th June, 1886.

    Claire Faulkner

  12. Robyn Lewis says:

    Hi Kate,
    We have recently found a family member who had 6 illegitimate children to a Chinese man in Queensland between 1890 & 1900.We have also found in National Archives material that the father, Wong Fung, tried to return to Australia in 1903 but with only the male children listed to return with him. Is this something that would suit your project? I would be happy to send birth cetificates and Archive material. We would appreciate if you could offer any avenues we could check to try to find more on this.
    Regards, Robyn

  13. Bronwyn O'Donnell says:

    Hi Kate

    I was interested in your research as I have been tracing my husbands family and like Kate McMannus his Great Grranfather was Yap John Hong, I have managed to find his naturlization papers and have just sent off for his marriage certificate. The Hongs are related on his mother’s father’s side of the family, but her mother’s father was also Chinese Charles Chong who married Caroline Sophia Batterby in 1862 in Mudgee NSW. So there family has strong Chinese connection on both sides


    Bronwyn O’Donnell

  14. Greg Johnson says:

    Dear Kate

    I am descended through my mother from John Mann, Chinese immigrant, ‘bushman and shepherd’, from Amoy on his naturalisation certificate, who married Scotswoman Elizabeth Smith in the ‘Presbyterian Church’ , Maryborough Qld on 19/2/1863/000373 and had 8 children: John 1864, James (S5) 1866, Elizabeth 1868, Jessie 1871, Alexander 1874, William 1878, Henry 1883 and George 1885. John Mann died in 1888. (Maryborough cemetery index: MANN John, Gardener). I am descended from his son, James, (a maternal Great Grandfather). He probably arrived when Queensland was part of NSW (i.e. pre 1859).

    I have copy of his naturalisation certificate, pictures of my great grandfather etc if you are interested. I live in Canberra! Greg

  15. rae elsley says:

    dear kate my husband is descended from two chinese anglo marriages specifically charles wong kow and sarah jane kong and martha gibson and john ah tick would you be intewrested in anything to do with them rae

    • Michele Tick says:

      Hi there,

      I’m hoping someone can help me with my family tree research.

      My great, great grandmother is Mary Ann Clara Gibson. I have her marriage certificate & it appears she married Ah Gick in 1875. My name is Michele Tick & I’m trying to understand why the surname change. Also Ah Gick seems to have become John Ah Tick & then John Tick. I would appreciate any information on this couple as I’m trying to help my elderly father find out the origins of our surname.


      • Marion Jones says:

        Hi Michele,
        I am doing a tree that has Mary Ann Clara Gibson in it.
        If you want to email me we may be able to help each other.

        Hope to hear from you soon.

      • Marion Jones says:

        Hi Michele,I am doing a tree on the Tick/Elsley line.
        Contact me via email I will try to help as much as I can.

  16. Emma Grahame says:

    Hi Kate,
    I’ve just blogged about Jack Brook’s book, From Canton with Courage, at the Dictionary of Sydney’s blog, Looking Up. His biographical register section might help you with names and dates, and also to find family members, as a lot of Jack’s research was through descendant’s networks. A contact email for him is in the post, and he still has copies for sale.
    Great project — all the best with it.

    • Kate says:

      Hi Emma,

      Thanks for the heads up. I’m coming up to Sydney in a couple of weeks and seeing the From Canton with Courage exhibition is on my list of things to do. I’ve heard it’s great.


  17. Kate McManus says:

    Hi Kate

    I am writing a novel about my great grandmother Margaret Lawrence who married Yap John Hong at Pipeclay creek Mudgee around 1850 ( I lost the certificate in a recent move and am applying for a new one). John was one of the indentured Amoy labourers who must have left sheparding for gold digging, then moved on to other occupations afterwards. Although this is a novel, I want to ensure that it is based on historical fact so have been doing research for a short while. I joined the Chinese Museum in Melbourne and Sophie Couchman forwarded your name but the address at UNE was rejected. I would appreciate any direction you can give me for further research Many Thanks Kate McManus

    • Kate says:

      Hi Kate! Thanks for getting in touch. If the year 1850 is right, your great grandmother’s marriage is one of the earliest Chinese-European marriages I have heard of in NSW. There are a few novels around dealing with Chinese-European relationships, mostly American though – but have you read Neridah Newton’s The Lambing Flat? I’d love to hear more about your project. My email is kate DOT bagnall AT gmail DOT com.

    • Sally Fitzpatrick says:

      Dear Ms McManus
      My daughter is also a descendant of Yap John Hong and Margaret Laurence through their daughter Ellen Mary’s line. We are very interested to hear how your project has progressed. Best wishes

  18. Howard Wilson says:

    Hi Kate

    As you know, I’m interested. I will, asap, collect all my scanned (with transcsipts) ‘Chinese birth’ and ‘Chinese marriage’ certificates together (in .jpg format), and send them to your threads-of-kinship link. As well as Certificates for Pauline Ah Hee’s biological family, I also have some Certificates for two branches of the Choy family.

    Kind regards, Howard Wilson

    • Kate says:

      Hi Howard,

      Thanks very much for your generosity. I look forward to further discussions at Dragon Tails 2011.


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